AFTRA’s early bird on pact

Performers' union outlines key issues

Over five months prior to the Nov. 15 expiration of the current three-year deal, the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists has started prepping for negotiations on its key network code contract.

The performers’ union has told its members that key issues include health, retirement, residuals, supplemental markets, trends in programming and jurisdiction over programming on basic cable.

It said that locals around the country have started to gather input from members through the “wages and working conditions” process, which will conclude by mid-June. AFTRA staff will be conducting set visits and scheduling cast meetings to talk to performers who work on network code programs about the issues.

AFTRA said proposals will be debated at a national plenary in July, then finalized for presentation to AFTRA’s national board.

In the 2001 negotiations, AFTRA reached agreement, after 11 days of talks, on the first day following expiration of the previous three-year contract. AFTRA had told its 80,000 members to keep working and never took a strike authorization vote.

The net code is AFTRA’s biggest contract, with annual earnings of over $400 million. It covers primetime nondramatic and syndicated programs, newsmags, daytime dramas, variety shows, gamers, yakkers, sports programs and promotional announcements.

The 2001 deal included the following:

  • Hikes in minimums for dramatic programs (except serials) rose 3.5% in the first year and 3% in the next two years, while minimums increase by 3% each year for all other areas.

  • Foreign residuals are uncapped once specific sales targets are hit.

  • Fox paid the same residual rates as the Big Three nets beginning in November 2003.

  • TV programs on the Internet in a pay-per-view or subscription format generate residuals based on a pool of 3.6% of distributors’ gross.

  • Producers boosted health and pension contributions by 0.5% in 2004; they also boost cable rerun fees by 12% through a change in health and pension contributions.

  • Minimum for excess workdays on daytime serials were increased in the second year.

  • Fees for extras on serials and variety programs were increased by 3% in the second year; the gains ranged between 5% and 6% for other types of programming.

  • Discrimination disputes became subject to mediation.

  • A fixed residual rate of 37.5% replaced the sliding scale when programs are syndicated to less than 50% of the country.

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